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Updates from the Hill – 2013

September 26, 2013

Affordable Care Act implementation

The exchange is scheduled to begin signing up participants on October 1, 2013 and in anticipation of that beginning the proposed premiums for all 50 states have been released. TN finds itself in the lower than expected category.

A listing of the premiums for all 50 states can be found here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/09/25/delivering-affordable-care-act-marketplace-premiums-lower-expected?utm_source=snapshot&utm_medium=email&utm_content=092613-blog

Navigators and Certified Application Counselors

An additional wrinkle was a set of emergency rules proposed by the Department of Commerce & Insurance related to the requirements for being a navigator or certification application counselor. These rules were promulgated in response to Public Chapter 377 of the 2013 session. The rules went farther than expected and caused many who were in the final stages of training navigator and counselor staffers to shudder.

A link to the emergency rules can be found here:

http://state.tn.us/sos/rules_filings/09-29-13.pdf

The rules took many people by surprise as they seemed to require fingerprint checks to be completed prior to the time a navigator or CAC could begin acting. These fingerprint checks can be time consuming and expensive and would have significantly delayed the ability of navigators and counselors to function on October 1st. Clarification by the Department made us aware that the Department would run a TN background check on each applicant when registration paperwork is received and they will follow up with national checks and fingerprints. Further clarification confirmed that once an applicant received notification that their application was received, they could provide navigator and counselor services without further delay.

A link to information and a frequently asked question document can be found here:

http://www.tn.gov/insurance/index.shtml

Common Core Hearings

On September 19th & 20th Chairman Delores Gresham (R-Somerville) of the Senate Education Committee held public hearings on the emotional subject of common core standards. The hearings began with the reading of the 66 page common core document and testimony from Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. They continued through a variety of presenters both for and against common core. The hearing rooms were packed both days and testimony was animated at times.

In the end no votes were taken, and no decisions were finalized, but many felt much better for having had the opportunity to present their views. It did give many legislators the opportunity to learn more about an item that is certainly going to take up significant time during the 2014 General Assembly.

Off to the Races

A couple of seats in the 2014 election are already getting quite a bit of attention more than a year out!

The seat held for all of modern history by Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) will see a democratic primary battle between Jason Holleman and Jeff Yarbro. Mr. Yarbro, an attorney, ran against Sen. Henry in his last primary and lost by a handful of votes so he has name recognition in the district already. Mr. Holleman, also an attorney, is a current Metro Council member and is spending all his free time shaking hands and meeting folks in the district.

The seat currently held by Sen. Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) will also see a hotly contested primary. This district was largely redrawn after the 2010 census and the current seat holder, Sen. Summerville finds himself with two republican primary opponents already. Former Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) who was drawn out of his previous district in 2012 is trying to come back to the Senate in this, his new district. Additionally, House of Representatives member, Joshua Evans (R-Greenbrier) has also announced plans to challenge Sen. Summerville and former Sen. Roberts for the district.

September 5, 2013

Healthier Tennessee

A series of announcements statewide launched the Governor's initiative known as "Healthy Tennessee". The creation of the Governor's Foundation for Health and Wellness and the launch of the Healthier Tennessee initiative result from the Governor's Health and Wellness Task Force that was appointed in 2011.

Led by Rick Johnson, this is Governor Haslam's effort at encouraging Tennesseans to be more physically active; eat healthier foods; and remove tobacco products from their habits. "This initiative is bringing employers, healthcare providers, health insurance companies, schools, and community organizations together in a coordinated way to encourage and promote healthier behaviors," Gov. Haslam continued. "I believe that through this statewide effort, we can leverage health and wellness programs that are already happening in Tennessee communities, which will not only improve our quality of life but can reduce the cost of health care and the cost of doing business in Tennessee."

More changes for the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC)

For the last few years, there has been a noticeable amount of legislative activity surrounding the Judicial branch of government. In her role as Executive Director of the AOC Libby Sykes has been front and center. That will all change as she has announced her retirement effective the end of this calendar year. Libby has been with the AOC since 1995, and her institutional knowledge will be missed!

Medicaid Expansion

Governor Haslam and TennCare Director Darin Gordon recently travelled to Washington DC where they sat down with federal health officials including Marilyn B. Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to discuss the Tennessee Plan for Medicaid expansion. Although no agreement was reached, all parties stressed that the discussion was on-going.

The Governor has recently announced two new commissioners. Larry Martin, who was holding the interim role at Finance and Administration, has been appointed Commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration. Comm. Martin is no stranger to Nashville, as he has been working with Gov. Haslam since 2012 in the role of special assistant. Previously, he worked in then Mayor Haslam's Knoxville office. Robert Oglesby has been tapped to head the Department of General Services. Commissioner Oglesby has been the state architect since 2011 and assumed the top job upon the resignation of former Commissioner Steve Cates in mid-August. A search for a new State Architect is ongoing.

Legislative Panel ponders annual confab between US House & Senate and Tennessee General Assembly

At a recent meeting of the Joint Government Operations Legislative Advisory Committee, Chairman Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) suggested a "bilateral session of congress" which would provide an annual meeting between the 11 U.S. House and Senate members and the 132 member Tennessee General Assembly to be held in Nashville. An interesting concept, the idea will get more debate at future meetings of the joint Government Operations Committee.

July 1, 2013

CLICK HERE for a PDF listing a more detailed description of the Public Chapters going into effect on the above date.

This is a comprehensive list of the Public Chapters that become law as of July 1, 2013. If you have any questions regarding any of the new laws going into effect please feel free to contact us. Thank you!

Some highlights include:

  • Guns in parking lots: Allows people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.
  • School security: Allows school districts to let people with police training to be armed in schools.
  • Meningitis/proof of immunization: Requires incoming students at public higher education institutions to show proof they have gotten meningitis shots.
  • Unemployment benefits: Cuts a weekly $15-per-child allowance that was going to Tennesseans drawing unemployment benefits.
  • Food tax: Lowers the sales tax on groceries from 5.25 percent to 5 percent.
  • College/religious groups: Bars public universities and colleges from implementing nondiscrimination policies for student groups.
  • Schools/home: Allows home school students to participate in extracurricular athletics if certain standards are met.
  • Health care providers/assault: Increases fine imposed on a person who assaults a health care provider while that person is performing his or her duty.
  • Charter schools: Revises various provisions regarding public charter schools.
  • DUI-interlock: Applies Tennessee's ignition interlock law to more drunken drivers.
  • Retired teachers-education: Allows retired teachers' children who are under 24 years old to receive a 25 percent discount at any public higher education institution.
  • Child custody: Requires a parent to notify a child's other parent before relocating more than 50 miles away, rather than 100 miles away.
  • Disabled people: Enacts "Lynn's Law," which defines abuse or neglect of an adult to include knowingly abandoning or failing to provide additional planned transportation for the adult in certain situations.
  • Human trafficking: Establishes a human trafficking task force.
  • Search/seizure: Bans most warrantless surveillance by unmanned drones in Tennessee.

Source: Associated Press

April 18, 2013

The first session of the 108th General Assembly is winding down this week. An adjournment in the teens of April is the first one in more than 20 years! Meeting this self-imposed deadline has caused some late nights and seriously strained patience.

The Governor's budget, as amended achieved final passage on Thursday and we expect adjournment to occur sometime on Friday.

As Friday is our normal day for sending out weekly reports, we wanted to let you know that reports may be delayed this week. If adjournment occurs during routine business hours tomorrow, we will get the reports out, but if the adjournment is delayed, we will send reports on Monday.

For more up to the minute action, please follow us on Twitter: @smithharriscarr!

If there is a particular item of interest, please do not hesitate to call us.

It has been our pleasure working with you this session. Thank you for the confidence you place in us.

April 1, 2013

No Medicaid Expansion for now
Appearing before a hastily called Joint Session Governor Bill Haslam announced last week that he does not intend to expand TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, at this time. Instead, he expressed interest in a plan dubbed the “Tennessee Plan” that would allow the state to utilize the available federal funds to purchase private health insurance coverage for those between 100% and 138% of poverty.

The Annual Budget Frenzy Has Begun
The deadline for legislators to file individual amendments to the annual appropriations act was last Thursday.  More than 250 individual amendments were filed according to staff of the House and Senate Finance Committees.  These will be considered before final action is taken on the appropriations bill.

Commissioner Emkes of the Department of Finance & Administration is expected to present the administration amendment to the appropriations bill in House and Senate Finance Committees.  This is the beginning of the annual budgetary process.  The administration amendment is greatly anticipated as it is the roadmap that the legislature will use to guide fiscal decisions for the FY2013/14 budget
.

Session Gears up to Wind Down
The legislative session revved up considerably in the last two of weeks. Some committee calendars consist of as many as 60 bills, and there is much “power walking” up and down the halls of the Legislative Plaza. In the Senate, the Transportation, Health and General Welfare, Commerce, and Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committees have shut down, having completed their business. In the House, a number of subcommittees have closed, but the majority of full committees continue to work through their calendars.  With the standing committees closing, it’s the time that we all must spend a lot of time reviewing amendments to be sure that individual pieces of legislation don’t become “Christmas trees” with unrelated amendatory language.

Adjournment
The target date for legislative adjournment has been set for April 19th, but we are not quite that hopeful.  An end of April adjournment is reasonable, however.

Secretary of State announces new Uniform Commercial Code Rules and Filing Procedures
Secretary Tre Hargett has announced some changes in the current UCC filing procedures.

Secretary of State Announces New Online Filing Service for Uniform Commercial Code Documents

As part of an ongoing effort to make it more convenient and efficient for businesses and other entities to send required documents to the state, the Secretary of State’s office will soon allow Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings to be handled online.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett said a new online filing system, scheduled for launch July 1, will make it possible for UCC filings to be handled through an automated process.

The system will use the same technology the Secretary of State’s Business Services Division has implemented to accept and process online filing for other types of documents. Through the use of that technology, the division has been able within the last couple years to begin accepting online filings for formation documents and annual reports for corporations and limited liability companies as well as workers’ compensation exemption registrations. The division is also able to accept and process certificates of existence online.

“In these technology-oriented times in which we are living, it makes sense to automate as much of our department’s filing management systems as we can,” Secretary Hargett said. “Allowing our customers – who are the citizens of Tennessee - to file documents online is one way that we can provide them with better and faster service.”

The computer system the department has been using for UCC filings went into production in 1997 and was last upgraded in 2004.  Its programming technology is becoming obsolete and does not allow for online filings. 

The new system will allow customers to use a web-based tool to complete the data entry portion of their filings, including the ability to copy and paste descriptions of collateral into the collateral field on the online form.  Once customers complete and verify their data entries, they can choose from one of two methods for submitting the filings. The two options are “web-filed” and “web-prepared.”

The web-filed method allows customers to pay for the filings using credit or debit cards.  A credit card convenience fee, which covers credit card processing costs, is charged if customers choose the web-filed option.  The benefit for a web-filed document is the customers will have their liens secured immediately upon completion of the online filing payment process because there is no human intervention required to process web-filed documents. Also, their liens will then be included in real time online search results for records.

The web-prepared method allows customers to do the same data entry and verification as with web-filed documents.  However, with web-prepared filings, customers print the forms and then mail them along with checks for payment to the Secretary of State’s office.  Both the web-filed and web-prepared methods of payment will significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for secured parties to perfect their liens or obtain search results. 

The new system will also modernize the hardware and software used by the office to file UCC financing statements, amendments, and searches.  The new system will improve service levels by making staff processing work more efficient.

In the current processing environment, filings may have to be handled as many as 10 times by various departmental employees. 

With the new system, if a customer web-files a document, then it is never handled by a staff person. Web-prepared filings minimize staff handling of documents.
“When we automate the process for routine filings, that gives our staff more time to deal with questions or assist customers with filings that are not routine,” Secretary Hargett said. “It is a much more efficient use of our resources.”

In addition to the new UCC filing system, the administrative rules governing those filings are changing as a result of the passage by the Tennessee General Assembly of Public Chapter 708 of the Public Acts of 2012.  The legislation was adopted to help Tennessee’s UCC statute conform to the national model statute developed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. 

The filing forms are also being revised.  There are several forms that will change as a result of the new law, including the UCC Financing Statement (UCC1), UCC Financing Statement Addendum (UCC1Ad), UCC Financing Statement Amendment (UCC3), and the UCC Financing Statement Amendment Addendum (UCC3Ad).  These forms as well as the UCC Statement of Claim (UCC5) and the UCC Information Request (UCC11) - which is also known as the UCC search form - are all being updated and will be available when the new system launches. 

A web-based training module will allow customers to view how the new online filing process will work.  In addition, the Secretary of State’s office will provide periodic updates, publish new rules, and post new forms as they become available in preparation for the launch date of the new system.  For more information as it becomes available, please visit the Secretary of State’s Business Services Division home page at: http://www.tn.gov/sos/bus_svc/index.htm

Governor Haslam's Tennessee Plan Proposal

The Affordable Care Act gives states the option of adding a new population to their Medicaid programs: adults under 65 who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid or Medicare and who have family incomes below 138% of poverty (just under $27,000 for a family of three). The federal government is putting up 100% of the costs of covering these individuals from 2014 through 2016.

The new group is called the "Medicaid Expansion" group.

The traditional approach for covering the "Medicaid Expansion" group is to simply add them to the Medicaid rolls, or the TennCare rolls in our case. We don't want to do that. There are many federal requirements that come with Medicaid that make it difficult to provide quality care in the most cost-effective way possible. If the only option HHS will give us is to expand a broken system, our answer is clear.

By the end of the year, we will have new health plans offering services to uninsured people through the Exchange, or Marketplace. We want to leverage the new federal dollars that are available for coverage of the Medicaid Expansion group by enrolling them in an Exchange health plan and buying private insurance for them.

HHS Components of the Tennessee Plan

Here are the five key points of our proposal:

  1. When individuals are identified as being eligible for the Medicaid Expansion group, we will direct them to the Exchange. They will be allowed to select any qualified health plan (QHP) they want that offers a certain level of benefits (the "Silver Plan"). They will not have the option to choose TennCare over an Exchange plan.

  2. The State will pay the premiums that are required for these individuals to enroll in a QHP. The premium payments will be matchable with 100% federal dollars.

  3. People in the Medicaid Expansion group will be treated like all other people enrolled in the QHP. They will have access to the same benefits and the same appealsprocess as all other persons in their plans.

  4. People in the Medicaid Expansion group will have the same cost-sharing as other persons enrolled in the QHP who have incomes below 250% of poverty.

  5. This arrangement will have a circuit breaker or sunset. It will end after the three year period in which the 100% federal matching dollars are available.

We believe this is a sensible approach that offers Tennesseans an opportunity to cover people in need of health insurance without expanding the TennCare population.

Tennessee Plan Talking Points

  • Governor Haslam has been working on a "Tennessee Plan" for healthcare reform that would utilize the available funding

  • Expanding a broken system by simply expanding Medicaid doesn't work.

  • The "Tennessee Plan" for healthcare reform would:

    • Use available money to purchase private health insurance for those who are eligible.

    • Include co-pays for those who can afford to pay something, and would align incentives so the user has some skin in the game.

    • Work with providers to lower the cost of care and move to a payment method based on results. o Save Tennessee money, and save American Taxpayers at least 3 dollars for every dollar we save.

    • Have a definitive circuit-breaker or sunset after three years so that funding could only be renewed with the General Assembly's approval.

  • To succeed, we need cooperation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but we can't get those assurances from them at this point.

  • Because the Obama Administration has been unable to provide those assurances, the Governor's budget amendment will not include federal dollars to expand Medicaid at this time.

  • Governor Haslam will continue to seek the necessary flexibility to pursue real reform in Tennessee.

January 28, 2013

Governor Haslam gave his third state of the state to a packed house, including all the members of the Tennessee General Assembly; the Governor's cabinet members; the members of the Supreme Court; the Constitutional officers and many family and friends.

The speech was longer than his previous speeches, but he had a lot to say!

The early parts of the speech centered around the theme of "Tennessee is different," and he pointed out how different we are from Congress and many other states who are suffering severe budget issues. He also stressed bi-partisanship.

Other highlights of his remarks included:

  • He will fully fund the BEP and plans to appropriate additional resources for technology transfer upgrades across the state. He also recommended additional capital expenditures for local schools.
  • For higher education, he announced complete funding of the Complete College Act Outcomes formula, which will limit tuition increases and provide financial relief to families. He also announced a "Drive to 55" to expand access to online courses for those who never completed college. He is also increasing appropriations to the technology centers located across the state.
  • These initiatives likely come from his listening tours around the state on the needs of employers.
  • He included a number of new capital projects in his budget, including some that have been put off for many years. The University of Tennessee at Memphis was a big benefactor of these capital projects.
  • He announced his proposed workers compensation reforms as well.
  • He is also including additional dollars for tourism expenditures.
  • On the subject of state employees, he mentioned the implementation of last year's initiatives. He paid particular attention to the actions of the Department of Health employees, who discovered the issues ultimately identified as the fungal meningitis outbreak. He also announced a 1.5% increase for state employees "across the board." Further, there is money targeted to those positions where state employees earn less than those in similar jobs in private business.
  • TennCare costs are estimated to be $350 million more this year than last year due to normal growth in the program and, as they told legislators earlier in the day, due to the "woodwork effect" of the Affordable Care Act.
  • He does not include expanding Medicaid in his budget recommendation. Instead, he calls for deliberate and serious discussion on the topic, and he specifically mentioned at risk rural hospitals.
  • He suggests that the State delegate funds coming from a tobacco settlement to a couple of special projects. One is a joint effort between the University of Tennessee at Memphis and St. Jude.
  • He also announced that the Arlington lawsuit has been settled and his budget includes $10 million to carry out the settlement agreement.
  • He proposes additional money for the Department of Corrections to address the costs to local jails.
  • He plans to include additional funding for Drug Courts across the state as well as mobile crisis services for those having mental health emergencies.
  • He is recommending additional funding for Department of Children's Services case workers and additional resources for child protective services.
  • He is also recommending additional resources for the rainy day fund to take it back to its pre-recession levels.
The Governor also mentioned his opposition to popularly elected Judges. He voiced strong support for the resolution proposed by Senator Kelsey and recommended the continuation of the current system in the interim.

At the end of his remarks, he recognized Rep. Lois DeBerry who was watching her 40th State of the State address tonight.

We are guessing he was interrupted by applause approximately 19 times.

January 10, 2013

The 108th General Assembly has adjourned their organizational session and will return to Nashville to begin the regular 2013 session on Monday, January 28. They will also hear Governor Haslam's 2013 State of the State and Budget address on that Monday evening.

House Limits Bills to 15 Each

The House has adopted new rules that allow each member to serve as the prime sponsor for a maximum of 15 bills this session. There are exceptions for bills proposed by the administration and for bills with local, rather than general, application. A move by House Democrats to remove the limitation was soundly defeated.

As of this morning, 47 bills have been filed in the Senate and 23 in the House. A bill allowing teachers to carry guns in schools is one of those presented for first reading.

New Committees and Appointments

Both House and Senate Committee appointments were announced this morning.

On the House side, Speaker Harwell kept the same number of committees but eliminated the Children and Family Affairs Committee and the Conservation and Environment Committee. However, she expanded the Agriculture Committee to take on environmental issues and split a number of the committees that traditionally consider the most legislation. The 2013 House Committees are below. Those that are new or have added subject matter are bolded, and the Chairs are listed. (A complete list of each committee's membership, plus the membership of the subcommittees that will process some bills, will be posted on the this website.)

Agriculture and Natural Resources – Rep. Curtis Halford

Business and Utilities (formerly Commerce) – Rep. Pat Marsh

Civil Justice (formerly Judiciary) – Rep. Jon Lundberg

Consumer and Human Resources – Rep. Jimmy Eldridge

Criminal Justice (formerly Judiciary) – Rep. Eric Watson

Education – Rep. Harry Brooks

Finance – Rep. Charles Sargent

Government Operations – Rep. Judd Matheny

Health – Rep. Bob Ramsey

Insurance and Banking (formerly Commerce) – Rep. Steve McManus

Local Government (formerly State and Local Government) – Rep. Matthew Hill

State Government (formerly State and Local Government) – Rep. Ryan Haynes

Transportation – Rep. Vince Dean

Calendar and Rules – Rep. Bill Dunn

On the Senate side
, the changes made by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey were much less dramatic.

There is no maximum number of bills per Senator, and the committee structure remained much the same, although with changes in membership. All Senate Committee chairs are unchanged from 2012, with the exception of Judiciary, which is now chaired by Senator Brian Kelsey. The former Chair, Sen. Beavers, is now the "First Vice- Chair" of the Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee.

Complete information on Senate committee membership will be available on this website


January 7, 2013

The 108th General Assembly begins this week.

The schedule that we expect is:

Tuesday,
January 8, 2013
 
12:00 noon The House and Senate will go into session and elect their leadership for this general assembly. This includes the Speaker of the House and the Lt. Gov of the Senate as well as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the House. Further, the elected Speakers will appoint the Chief Clerks and other staff positions. Speaker Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ramsey are expected to easily win re-election.
Wednesday,
January 9, 2013
 
9:00 a.m. The House will go into Session and run through the orders of the day. This will include bill readings and other parliamentary moves.
9:30 a.m. The Senate will go into session and do the same as the House did at 9:00 a.m.
10:00 a.m. The House and Senate will meet in Joint Session to elect the three Constitutional officers. None of the current Constitutional Officers are expected to have serious opposition and all three are expected to win re-election.
Thursday,
January 10, 2013
 
9:00 a.m. The House and Senate will go into session and run through the orders of the day just like they did on Wednesday.
9:45 a.m. The House and Senate will meet in Joint Session to receive legislatively required ethics training.

Upon adjournment of the Joint Session on Thursday, the legislature is expected to recess to a date certain (2 weeks is expected).

House Rules Changes:
A recommendation by the Chief Clerk of the House and endorsed by Speaker Beth Harwell will dramatically change the rules of the House. There are several provisions included in these changes including:

  • No member may vote any other member during a floor session
  • Digital copies of amendments are allowed during debate
  • Increasing the number of standing committees in an effort to have bills more equitably divided amongst committees. In this change several previous committees are abolished or split in two.
  • Each member can only have 2 presentations on the House floor
  • Each member is limited to 10 bill/resolution introductions exempting administration bills and local bills. This is the most significant change and has lobbyists scrambling to get key House members to hold "spots." Serious discussion on this change is expected.

Committee assignments:
On Thursday, January 10th, both the House Speaker and the Senate Lt. Governor are expected to make committee assignments for the 108th General Assembly. Due to the changes proposed by the House and the wide margin of Republicans over Democrats, those assignments might be significantly different. The Lt. Governor has also said that his appointments might reflect real changes. The new makeup in the Senate is expected to be 7 Republicans and 2 Democrats per Committee.

We will send out Committee assignments as soon as they are available.

Recess:
As mentioned above, we expect a two-week recess before the General Assembly re- convenes for the session. The Governor will present his FY 2013/14 budget upon the legislature's return. This will likely also mean that the final bill cutoff deadline will occur shortly after the recess.


 

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